The History of Tea

By Staff
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Desiree Bell is inspired by botanicals and natural materials. She is a vegetarian who has a certificate in herbal studies and a certificate from Australasian College of Health Sciences in Aromatherapy. When she isn’t in her suburban garden, hiking or crafting, she is teaching pre-k with an emphasis on nature and gardening. For more ideas on Simple Living With Nature you can visit her blogs

As winter approaches a cup of tea can revive your soul and warm your body. Camellia sinensis (synonym: Thea sinensis) is an evergreen shrub clipped to 5 feet with leathery, green leaves and fragrant white flowers. Tea contains xanthenes, caffeine (1 to 5 percent), theobromine, tannins, falconoid, fats and vitamin C. It is useful in treating infections of the digestive tract and in Ayurveda medicine is considered an astringent and nerve tonic.

In the writings of Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2737 B.C. The cultivation of tea began in China, then Japan, followed by the Far East and then India (1832). No one knows for sure when thea sinensis was first introduced to England from China, but in 1658 a merchant placed an ad in a publication for its medicinal qualities.

Early American settlers did not share the same passion for drinking imported teas from England, but by the 1750s the colonists were drinking it regularly. If you couldn’t afford to drink “tea” some favorite herbal teas they enjoyed were chamomile, peppermint and elderflower.

After the Boston Tea party, “patriotic ladies” banished imported teas and turned to domestic herbal teas called “liberty teas,” some of which were mint, balm, rosemary and sage. Following the Revolutionary War, Americans imported tea directly from China and Thea sinensis became easily attainable and inexpensive. The major tea producing countries are China, India and Japan.

I purchased some loose-leaf teas to sell in my small shop. Brewing myself a cup of each new kind to taste is a must. Assam tea is becoming one of my favorites. This tea bush grows in a lowland region of India. The leaves of the Assam tea bush are dark green, glossy and fairly wide. The plant is generally harvested twice. The first flush is picked late in March and a second harvest later in the season, which makes the tea leaves sweeter and more full-bodied.

Assam tea grows in a lowland region of India.
Photo by Chashitsu_LaShere/Courtesy Flickr

The way in which tea is harvested, dried and processed will affect the flavor of the brew. Some teas are flavored with flowers, fruits and extracts. To brew tea use fresh cold water (filtered if possible) and bring a boil, add tea to your cup or pot, pour in the hot water and let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Enjoy!

References: The Herbal Tea Garden by Marietta Marshall Marcin (1995)
The Encyclopedia of Herbs Spices & Flavorings by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz (1992) 

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